Creating Effective Release Plans

I always see creating Release Plans as Roadmap for my projects. It’s a intersection point where vision & strategy meets work to be delivered when and how OR in other words, it’s the point where the leadership vision meets the planned team work. And this marks the pre-requisites for Release Planning. So, Pre-Requisites of Release Planning Meeting includes the ranked, prioritized Product Backlog, known velocity or chosen velocity of SCRUM team and high level vision. Release Planning meeting gives us the chance to revisit the scope, risk, budget and schedule of projects.

Different ways of creating Release Planning can be Feature driven or Date driven (Sprint Based, Fixed dates), depending upon the nature of the project. In Feature driven, we decide to release only after chosen features are ready. In date driven, we can release after every sprint or on fixed dates. The question about the tenure of Release Plan, ideally should have release plans for 3 months (if short project) to 6 months (if long project). But again, it can vary from project to project.

For Feature driven projects, release goals can be set by picking up the features for three to six months and naming the release goals as release goal1, release goal2…. For release goal 1, have user stories ready for selected features. Estimate user stories for selected features and as per the velocity of team, can have the number of sprints for release1 which can be given by:-

No. of sprints after which can have release1 = Estimated Story Points/Velocity

For Date driven projects, release goal can be releasing after every xx weeks. In this approach, team’s velocity and Sprint Length decides the number of stories to be picked, to be better explained by an example say, if team has velocity of 3 points per sprint and decide to release after every 6 weeks with Sprint length of 2 weeks then team can deliver 9 story points for that release. So, all those user stories which sum to 9 and have higher priority can be delivered in release1.

Given Data: Release = 6 weeks, Sprint length = 2 weeks, velocity = 3 points per sprint

Estimated story points by Release Goal = Velocity * Number of sprints

Where Number of Sprints = Release goal / Sprint Length

With given data, Number of Sprints = 6/2 = 3

Estimated Story Points = 3*3 = 9

Another simple way of Date driven projects can be Sprint based which is the most simple to define but is difficult to achieve, this is releasing every sprint. Another words, if we define sprint to be of 2 weeks duration then we are releasing after every 2 weeks.